Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Multi-Use Coat for Refugees

A Multi-Use Coat for Refugees

Today, there are many refugees from Syria and elsewhere who have had to flee their homes and travel to safety in other countries with just the clothes on their backs. Aid organizations are overwhelmed, and many refugees end up sleeping outside for weeks while waiting to be processed. Interior design students at the Royal College of Arts in the United Kingdom took part in a hack-a-thon to find a solution to refugees waiting outside without shelter.  A hack-a-thon is a perfect example of the collaboration, the “teams of creators” that Gardner refers to in Creating Minds. About ten students worked together to “generate novel ideas and pursue them” (Lubart & Sternberg 271).
 They ultimately designed an item that will provide temporary shelter for refugees. They used a waterproof material called Tyvek to create a garment that can be used as a coat, sleeping bag, or tent. The coat has handy pockets for important papers and personal items, the sleeping bag retains body heat, and the tent can hold one adult and two children. Their wearable shelter clearly has the “utility and usefulness” that Simonton refers to in his chapter on genius. The product was inspired by origami, which shows that the designers used analogical reasoning (Morrison 2016). Both origami paper and the garment can be folded different ways to be different things. The convertible garment is quick and affordable to mass-produce, and also sustainable. The Tyvek fabric is insulated and resists tearing. An online fundraiser is underway to get this product ready before next winter.  This creative invention is an example of addressing a problem with a useful answer (Morrison 2016). According to Dr. Harriet Harriss, one of the professors involved, design “has a social heart,” and “needs to show a bigger social commitment to these kinds of problems.” The creators of this garment used “ideas in a creative way to meet the needs of the community, therefore increasing the quality of life” (McLean 226).

Image from <http://www.mycoolbin.com/2016/02/11/3-in-1-shelter-turns-from-coat-to-tentsleeping-bag-in-seconds/>

Europe-Migrants/Wearable Shelter. Perf. Matthew Stock. 3-in-1 'wearable Shelter' for Syrian Refugees. Info News, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAF2UgdiGKI>.

Gardner, Howard. "Preface to the 2011 Edition." Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic, 2011. Xix. Print.

Lubart, Todd L., and Robert J. Sternberg. "An Investment Approach to Creativity: Theory and Data." N.p.: n.p., n.d. 271. Print.

McLean, Laird D. "Organizational Culture’s Influence on Creativity and Innovation: A Review of the Literature and Implications for Human Resource Developmen." Advances in Developing Human Resources 7.2 (2005): n.

Morrison, Robert, PhD. "What Is Creativity and How Can We Study It?" Chicago. 27 Jan. 2016. Lecture.

Morrison, Robert, PhD. "Creative Mechanisms” Chicago. 17 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Simonton, Dean K. "Genius." N.p.: n.p., n.d. 494. Print.

Turner, Terry. "Students Design Refugee Coat That Becomes Tent, Sleeping Bag - Good News Network." Good News Network. N.p., 18 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. <http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/refugee-coat-tent-convertible/>.


  1. I think it's great that you chose a form of creativity that directly benefits such a large group of people. I know that a major issue many refugees face is trusting the products that they buy. Not only did this group make a sturdy product, but also something for refugees to put their trust into. It's especially interesting that they drew on oragami as an inspiration. It's great to see how one idea can influence something totally out of its field. Great job.

  2. The idea of creating an effective multi-use item sounds so easy, but its potential is not often realized. This item seems like a very effective way to get many benefits from one product. Most of us think of a coat as something we take off when we step into our houses, but to many people their coat is their outer layer all the time. It would be interesting to see this applied to homeless people living in cold weather cities like Chicago.

  3. I think that you did a really great job incorporating so many readings and ideas from different authors into this blog post. It's really great that this idea helps progress social justice to a group of people that really need it, but I wonder if this could be used for other groups and not just the refugees from Syria? This multi-use coat is a really creative idea and I can see that it possesses originality and utility. Origami is not something I typically think of when I think of clothes design, but I watched a TED talk about how sometimes randomness really helps with creativity, and I think this exemplifies that perfectly.

  4. I remember seeing a video about this on Facebook one day! I have the same reaction while reading this post as I did when I watched that video. I am so relieved that even through their immense struggle, the refugees have people caring for them. This innovative coat/tent would not have come to life if it was not for the students to recognize the major problem. Every day, I am surrounded by horrible news of plane crashes, violence in Chicago, and shootings near campus. However, this post makes me feel as though humanity is not dead yet. With innovators just like these ten people, the world can be a better place. As George mentioned above in his comments, I agree that it would be amazing so see this item applied to homeless people in the major cities.


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